Two years ago, Nienke Krook interviewed me for her blog, The Travel Tester. She starts out by saying:
“What is your most memorable childhood travel memory?” That’s what I’ve asked over 50 travel bloggers and other travel addicts. These are their personal stories and photos.
Hi Loren, do you remember the first time you went travelling?
Not the first time, but when I was four, my parents drove down to Virginia to visit my mother’s extended family. While we were there, my parents took the bus tour of Arlington National Cemetery. At John F. Kennedy’s grave, my mom — busy with my little brother — thought my dad had me. Until they got off the bus at the next stop, they didn’t realize that I wasn’t with either of them.
I don’t remember being lost or feeling scared, although I must have cried.
All I remember is a nice lady who took me on the bus back to the Visitor Center, where she fed me butterscotch candies from her purse until my parents came back for me.
The kindness of strangers is vastly underestimated.
Did your parents travel much before you were born?
My mom’s father owned a corner grocery, so they rarely traveled. My dad’s father worked two jobs: as a farmer and on the assembly line at Buick, so about the only time either of my parents traveled as children was to visit family.
My folks married very young. They met at junior college, got married, and moved to a house trailer together while they went to university. I was born two years later, so they didn’t have much time to travel together without kids.
Since I left home, they’ve toured Russia, visited farms in Holland and Germany, and taken numerous cruises around the Caribbean. Wherever they go, my mom always photographs cemeteries for me.
What was your favourite holiday destination as a child, a teenager and an adult?
When I was 8, my parents took us to Mesa Verde in Colorado. The abandoned Cliff Palace seemed so magical! I couldn’t understand why the Anasazi built such a beautiful city, only to abandon it. I daydreamed about living there for a long time.
When I was in college, my mom took me on a vacation — just the two of us — to Toronto. We rode the train there, which was an adventure in itself. I remember being awed by the architecture and the shopping. The city seemed so huge and lively, compared to Detroit, the nearest big city to my home. Once I met my husband at university, we drove to Toronto for weekends. I loved the thrift shops. I bought a silver leather coat.
It’s hard to pin myself down to a favorite destination now. For my birthday last year, my family drove up to the California Gold Country. The first night, we drove into Murphys a little before sunset. We discovered the historic graveyard, still in use, and poked around as the sky turned golden. Three deer strolled through, completely at peace. It was such a lovely evening, with my favorite people in the world, doing what I most love to do.
Can you tell me what your memory is with these images?
My dad worked in the accounting office at Buick. Every summer he got sent somewhere to count cars at a port before they were shipped overseas. This was before computerized inventory, so someone had to physically count each car in person.
The summer this photo was taken, my dad was sent to Houston. My brother and I spent all day in the hotel pool while he worked, but on the weekend, we went to the Houston Space Center, where they oversaw the Apollo missions to the moon.
I remember my parents getting me out of bed to watch the moon landings on TV. I thought at the time that I wanted to be an astronaut, to go into space and set foot on distant lands. What I really wanted to do was travel.
Can you remember a specific travel item/gadget you used to take on a trip as a child?
My mother used to read books into a cassette recorder, so we could listen to them while we traveled. Old-style audio books!
Did the way you travelled as a child changed much when you grew up?
When I was a kid, my parents were all about driving vacations. They’d put me and my younger brother in the back of the truck camper and head west. I got to see Yellowstone and the Rocky Mountains, Mount Rushmore and Bryce Canyon.
My husband and I prefer to fly to a city somewhere and spend a week exploring. We like to stay somewhere long enough to find a favorite café, sit in the park, visit all its bookstores, and wander through all its graveyards.
Finally: What is your best tip for making a trip memorable?
Do one thing everywhere you go. I always visit cemeteries, whether I am in New Orleans, Maui, New York, Tokyo, Pompeii. Cemeteries always tell me a lot about a place. The people I see visiting them tell me a lot, too. That one lens opens up the whole society, wherever you go. My husband uses hot chocolate as his magnifying glass. My daughter likes to explore the ice cream.
While you’re focused, you find amazing things along the way.